Driving up the south island we of course made time to stop in the Wairau valley near Blenheim to sample a few wines. Both the lady of the manor and I are big fans of Kiwi reds so this was the perfect opportunity to indulge ourselves, a fair reward for sleeping in a campervan I reckon. However we wanted to make sure that we didn’t just go to the well known names, most of them you can buy in the UK anyway so what’s the point in wasting valuable time tasting them here?
Despite this our first stop was Cloudy Bay, which no doubt many of you have heard of and is probably the most famous vineyard in this area (which doesn’t of course mean they make the best wines). We started with their whites and the bulk of the white they will sell is Savignon Blanc, which as with pretty much all the Savignon Blanc in this region is full of fruit and often tastes of gooseberry. These were good but nothing exceptional, the most interesting white we tasted was a late harvest Riesling which is a sweet, almost sticky wine. Very tasty.
We also tried their reds and did a comparison between their blended Pinot Noir and a single vineyard one. I have to be honest and say that the difference was too subtle for my taste buds to really distinguish between but enjoyable to tasted all the same. We purchased a bottle of the single vineyard Pinot Noir and also one of the late harvest Riesling. Hopefully these will survive the trip back to the UK and we can pair them with some roast Beef (or maybe venison) and then some good cheese for desert with the sweet wine. I’m actually salivating a little at the thought of that already.
Then next 2 stops were smaller vineyards that we hadn’t heard of but that the people at Cloudy Bay recommended based on our wine tastes. I will only write about one here because quite simply it was amazing. Hans Herzog is run by a Swiss couple who moved there to grow grapes that they couldn’t in Switzerland and what was most interesting was that although they do grow Pinot Noir and Savignon Blanc as you would expect they also had a large number of much more unusual grapes. We tried a selection but the ones that stood out were the Italian grapes Montepulciano and Nebbiolo , we were lucky that they had a 2004 Nebbiolo open that was so smooth and deep in flavour after just a few years in the cellar.
We didn’t have the room to buy anything from here but we plan to try and source some when we’re back in the UK. They also had a very nice looking restaurant (they used to have a Michelin starred restaurant in Switzerland) and a holiday cottage if you feel like some pampering, perhaps not with a 5 month old?
The wine valley here is easy to get around and very short distances between vineyards, I also noticed that a number of people had been on tours that collected them from the campsite, a good way of solving the designated driver issue!
Oh and Matilda had her first go in a high chair while we had lunch in one of the vineyards, most exciting and she loved it to.